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Leaving Brooklyn

"Leaving Brooklyn will stay with the reader, and remain... in our literature, a small masterpiece."

--Dan Wakefield, The Boston Globe

"An electrifying book... It took my breath away. Audrey is every one of us at fifteen."

--Maxine Kumin

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Leaving Brooklyn, which was nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, is a novel with and about double vision: "This is the story of an eye, and how it came into its own," is how it opens. The book travels along the boundaries between the visible and the hidden, between conformity and subversion, between fiction and memoir.

Even as a child, Audrey, the heroine, has her own way of seeing: an injury at birth left her with a wandering eye. Though flawed, the bad eye functions well enough to offer her an idiosyncratic view of the world—shadowy edges, colors, the components of things before they congeal. The actual world around her is stifling: it is postwar Brooklyn, the 1950s in the midst of Senator McCarthy’s hearings. Emotional and political repression makes it almost impossible for an adolescent girl to find a larger, truer life. But Audrey is singularly greedy for experience and adventure, and ultimately her flawed eye is her salvation, for in seeing beneath the skin of the world she is creating it anew. When she journeys to Manhattan to consult an eye doctor, she explores the sexual rites of adulthood. The affair that ensues raises provocative questions about the ambiguous nature of exploitation, and the uses of knowledge and vision that come too soon.

As the adult narrator recalls—and recovers—her early passage to an adulthood that leaves behind the state of mind that is Brooklyn, she casts new light on the nature of childhood, of memory and imagination.

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"Stunning... Coming of age is seldom registered as disarmingly as it is in Leaving Brooklyn."

--Sven Birkerts, The New York Times Book Review

"I read the book in one sitting, and it has stayed with me... This is Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s best-written book and, to me, her most moving. The blend of lyricism and history, of memory and the imagination—all shot through with the female erotic—is wonderful."

--Russell Banks